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Politically Motivated Violence Against Women in Zimbabwe on the Rise

Politically motivated violence against women is on the rise in Zimbabwe, said a report issued Friday by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a civil society group.

The 21-page report was released to coincide with an international campaign called 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, kicked off Nov. 25.

The Human Rights NGO Forum attributed violence against women to what it described as Zimbabwe's "patriarchal" societal norms which subordinate women to men.

The group cited comments by an opposition member of parliament, Timothy Mubhawu, during a debate on legislation to stiffen the penalties for domestic violence. "I stand here representing God Almighty. Women are not equal to men," Mubhawu said.

His faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, led by MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai, removed Mubhawu from his position as MDC leader in his district, though Mubhawu retained his seat in parliament for the Mabvuku section of Harare.

Despite equality clauses in Zimbabwe's constitution, and the country's signatory status under various international conventions and declarations asserting women's right to an equal place, women in Zimbabwe continue to be treated unfairly, the report said.

The report says 967 women have reported politically motivated violence over the past six years out of 15,000 cases of human rights abuse reported to the NGO Forum.

A number of cases concerned the sexual assault of women and girls at youth training camps operated by Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF ruling party. Also, women in rural and urban areas reported being punished with sexual assault for supporting the opposition.The report cites beatings, death threats, kidnappings and the torture of women activists.

National Director Alois Chaumba of the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice, a member organization of the Human Rights NGO Forum, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the Forum's figures if anything understate the reality, as many cases of sexual abuse go unreported.

More reports from VOA'S Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...